I just finished watching Michael Moore’s new film, Slacker Uprising. As of today, September 23, 2008, you can go online and download it for free at http://slackeruprising.com I intended on working on a couple of articles today for publications in England, but I got sidetracked by Mike – again. I always find his movies interesting and moving. And again I marvel at his prowess in making captivating documentaries with a message – you can call it propaganda, but that’s okay. As is part of his message, we are inundated with propaganda daily in a media that supports the powers that be, making sure their message is being spread far and wide. One of the first things he talks about in Slacker Uprising is the responsibility of the media to investigate beyond the walls of controlled information, ask the difficult questions, dig up the facts, and disseminate truth. Which is exactly what wasn’t done in the months leading up to the second invasion of Iraq (or probably in the build up to any military performance) – instead the mass media supported the United States heading into a war based on lies. And further to Mike’s message is that this work of seeking and supporting the spread of truth should always be protected by the famous First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States – the freedom of religion, expression, the press, and speech .
Mike started a movement in the weeks prior to the 2004 presidential election when he saw John Kerry and the Democrats’ campaign floundering. This film records the Slacker Uprising Tour that he embarked on, organizing events in sixty cities to see that the truth about the war in Iraq and the antics of the Bush administration would be heard. The slackers referred to are the youths of America who are uninterested in politics and can’t be bothered putting down their playstations and ipods long enough to vote – with reason they have lost faith in government and fail to understand that their vote can still count in making real change. On his mission to get them up, reinspired, and moving to the ballot box, Mike was joined along the way by musicians, actors, politicians, parents of fallen soldiers, and war veterans opposed to the insanity of this war. He has now released this new film, without a doubt timed so that its message will be seen and heard far and wide before the coming presidential election amd hopefully rile up the masses to get out the vote. It is the first full-length film to be made available for free on the internet. Mike has become a master at editing film clips into a powerful, flowing instructional video for an angry society and giving the public the alternative facts from what they are being fed on CNN and Fox. He is equally as skilled at getting publicity, both by his own actions (free download throughout North America? – the attention he’ll get just for doing the download will serve his purpose) and by the ensuing media reaction to his documented outcry.
Slacker Uprising shows the opposition to the war that is omnipresent, as well as the outrage from both sides of the issue, including those who believe that he, Michael, is the devil, not Bush. To me you don’t need to see mothers crying about their children who died in Iraq to be against war, but obviously those are powerful images. Mike employs them. As the father of a soldier says in SU, people would be “supporting our troops” more by bringing them home then sending more into Iraq. To be against the war is not to be abandoning the young men and women who are fighting for corporate and entrenched political interests in Iraq or Afghanistan, it would be demanding a saner approach to solving conflicts than throwing usually young, usually poor citizens into that so often deadly arena. There are people who continue to make huge amounts of money as war rages on, and it generally isn’t their sons and daughters who are dying.
Of course much of Mike’s films are edits taken out of context and he pieces together each film in a very deliberate way. But every newscast that we digest is prepared in just the same way, night after night, deliberate information sent streaming into each home in the country. Here in Canada we are only marginally ahead in the fairness and non-partisanship of our media. Mike isn’t looking to be president, he is simply asking that people think and seek and stand and vote. As Joan Baez says in SU, she believes his best quality is his compassion. I have found that the people who spend their lives doing difficult but important work on behalf of the less fortunate or powerless or voiceless, must be driven by compassion – as well as a sense of outrage. And hopefully are blessed with a big sense of humour for their own sakes. Michael Moore obviously has all of this. As Michael Moore states so eloquently in Slackers Uprising, it is not what we look like or what we own that we should be judged by, but by how we treat the poor, the less-able, the disadvantaged.
I am one of those with believes that war is not the answer. Perhaps peace takes more work, but war is generally waged at the price to the poor and for the benefit of the rich. Wolf Guindon is one of those who stood up for his conscience as a young man at nineteen years of age and went to jail for refusing to register for the draft. He took this action in peace time, in 1948 and 49 when the US was between wars, but he did not believe in what the military was standing for and therefore would not support it. As he says in Walking with Wolf, it was reasonable to believe that American taxes and its military should be used for promoting peace and helping the poor and hungry in the world, but not preparing to enter into and raise the level of armed conflicts outside of the border of their own country. Wolf, along with three young Quaker men from the Rockwell family in Fairhope, Alabama, spent four months of a one-year sentence in prison. Their incarceration was followed by their move from the U.S. to Costa Rica, a country which had just abolished its army following its own internal conflicts. Pacifism is a central tenet of Quakerism. It is one of the beliefs that draws me to the Friends.
I happened to meet Michael Moore last year. I was in Traverse City, Michigan with my friend Cocky. We went to visit her brother but also to attend the film festival there. Mike started and supports that festival and was present at the various screenings. On a beautiful warm summer’s evening, Cocky and I went to the opening party of the festival, mingling with the pretty people of Traverse City. Mike arrived himself half way through the evening, obviously exhausted, and I have to say, not looking well but pale, short of breath, and obviously too overweight. One of the men we were with went over and asked him if he’d like a plate of food as he collapsed into a chair. He said that he would and soon a plate was put in front of him which he tried to eat while being smothered by the pressing crowd. A couple of hours later, we were walking by his car just as Michael Moore was coming to get into it. Cocky spoke up and thanked him for making the great films he does. I piped up, “And take care of yourself Mike”, as I’m quite convinced this man is going to drop over dead if he doesn’t look after his own health. We need him as few manage to get done what he does in spreading the truth to the masses – but he is just a mortal like the rest of us, moving into a time of his life when health issues become serious, and I truly fear for him.
He thanked us and then noticed the man with us, the one who had brought him that plate of food. Somehow, in the crush of fans and media and film buffs all wanting to get near him, he had actually noticed this man who had quietly brought the food to him. He stepped back as he was entering the car, and walked over to the guy, saying, “Thanks man for bringing me that food. That was real kind of you.” He shook his hand warmly and then got in his car. That moment cemented for me the image of Michael Moore as a real human being who speaks the truth with compassion, who is paying attention, and who believes in doing the right thing and taking the moment, or lifetime, to just do it.
In Slacker Uprising there are performances or speeches by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Eddie Vendor, Rosanne Barr (never my favorite but her sarcasm here was priceless), Viggo Mortensen (who mentioned Canada in a positive light), and another of my great heroes, Steve Earle (see my blog post Steve and the Hammer). Steve sang Rich Man’s War, another in a long line of anti-war, anti-insanity songs that he has written. When he sings, or even talks, it gives me shivers, because he poetically and musically always speaks the truth. All of these people, along with the thousands who filled the arenas on the Slacker Uprising Tour, are committed to the future, dedicated to finding better ways to solve conflicts that don’t involve killing young people and destroying environments, speaking up against the powers who control and profit by the military mentality. I sure hope that in both the American election in November and the Canadian federal election in October, that the compassionate ones will win – those who care for the poor, who don’t support sending them to war against other poor people to do some rich man’s dirty work, who believe in demanding that politicians and corporate barons take care of the world not use it as a playground for profit and power games…and who believe that speaking the truth is the only way we will ever really begin to solve anything.